- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
From Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now (APN) comes the word that the Congress is moving rapidly to advance a new, unilateral sanctions bill directed against Iran. The driving force behind the House version (H.R. 2194) is Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), and it would impose sanctions against any companies engaged in the “development of petroleum resources of Iran, production of refined petroleum products in Iran, and exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran.”
Needless to say, this bill won’t damage the Iranian regime very much or cause it to alter its behavior, but is bound to cause a lot of hardship on individual Iranians and will also piss off foreign companies (and governments). It’s also a good way to transfer popular discontent from the current government of Iran to the United States. To its credit, APN opposes the legislation. In another worrisome display of bad judgment, J Street has backed the bill while expressing certain reservations.
Friedman notes that the conventional wisdom was that the House version would pass while the Senate version (S.2799) stalled. This straddle would allow supporters to demonstrate their hawkish (and “pro-Israel”) credentials without creating any real adverse consequences. But now the Senate leadership has announced it intends to “hotline” the bill, which means bringing it to the floor with no debate, no amendments and no roll call vote. In this procedure, the bill is certain to pass “by unanimous consent.”
Friedman also points out that this regrettable outcome can be avoided if a single senator objects, a procedure known as putting a “hold” on the vote. Such a hold can be anonymous, and this anonymity is usually protected.
So I guess we now get to find out if there is at least one U.S. senator with the combination of a triple-digit IQ and the normal number of vertebrae.
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